Most people wait until it is too late. Brian D. Lerner shares that multiple times people come into his office with something like the following: “My wife has been put in the hospital for mental problems and now I want a advance healthcare directive so I can make the necessary medical decisions for her”, or “my husband has been in a coma or some kind of problem where he can’t communicate for a week. I need a advance healthcare directive.”
Brian Lerner gives another example where people come into his office and ask for advice on what to do because their spouse has been unconscious for a week and he does not know what his wife would have wanted to do regarding care and whether she would want to be in a coma for years. Other times, people come into Brian D. Lerner’s office in order to ask about donating organs of spouse after she has died. However, without an advance healthcare directive, it would not be possible to make these decisions for the spouse.
The problem, explains Brian D. Lerner, estate attorney, is that the very person you are trying to help with the advance healthcare directive is the person who must sign the advance healthcare directive. One big issue is that one must have the mental capacity to understand what it is that they are signing and the effects of that document. Obviously, Brian Lerner states that if one is in a coma or in a condition where they are not conscious, they obviously cannot sign. On the other hand, if they are conscious, but cannot understand what they are signing because of some mental condition such as dementia or some other similar type condition, then it is likely the advance healthcare directive can be challenged or attacked in court.
Thus, Brian D. Lerner explains that the key to preparing a advance healthcare directive is to do it while you are healthy, coherent, and know exactly what you are signing. You do not want to wait until it is too late. There is really one purpose for the advance healthcare directive states Brian D. Lerner. It is to give somebody (an agent) the power and authority to make your medical decisions when you are incapacitated. That is what it comes down to under the law. To follow the wishes of the person making the advance healthcare directive. The name ‘advance healthcare directive’ states exactly what it is. It is make a document in ‘advance’ of when it is needed which directs the agent (person given authority to act on your behalf) to have authority to make all kinds of medical decisions on your behalf.
On issue that Brian Lerner states also happens many times is people will ask if the advance healthcare directive allows the individual or agent to also make financial decisions on behalf of the principal (the person making the advance healthcare directive.) The answer is a resounding ‘no’. Another type of document would be needed for that purpose. That would be the durable power of attorney, not the advance healthcare directive. The advance healthcare directive is for medical decision making and for hospitals and medical institutions to be able to give you and send you information on the person that is incapacitated. It may not seem that it is critically important to take care of before you become incapacitated, but imagine how many medical decisions would need to be made if you are incapacitated. An advance healthcare directive is personal. Some people want to donate their organs if they die for research. Some people do not want to be in a coma for more than 30 days, etc. Additionally, without the advance healthcare directive, the medical institutions will not speak with you and will not divulge any information and will not allow you to help the very person who was to have made the advance healthcare directive.
What kind of decisions does the advance healthcare directive allow you to make? Well, states Brian D. Lerner, it can be a specific as to your desires such as when you want the agent to ‘pull the plug’; where you want money for your care to be taken; who is to take care of you; how long you will remain incapacitated; how you want your organs donated if you die, etc.
Brian D. Lerner notes that as you will see, the advance healthcare directive has numerous types of transactions which the agent can do and make decisions. Thus, make certain that you get the advance healthcare directive prepared and completed when you have the mental capacity and are young.